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Vulnerability management best practices

Vulnerability management is a critical component of keeping applications secure. It is the process of identifying, assessing, and fixing security vulnerabilities at all stages of the software development lifecycle. Vulnerability management in containerized, cloud-native applications needs to be automated and integrated into DevOps processes of building and shipping applications. The environment is too complex to manage vulnerabilities manually, and in the real world if it slows down the development speed too much organizations will be tempted to skip security safeguards.

Vulnerability management is not a gate that the application has to pass through, but rather a continuous process that starts with image scanning and introspection at the build stage and continues throughout the application’s lifecycle, in test and production environments.

Image scanning and implementing policies regarding image vulnerabilities during the build phase are the first steps towards effective container-native vulnerability management. The ability to run scans on demand, as images are built, or once containers are running is important to be able to spot vulnerabilities that may have been exposed during runtime. Vulnerability management has to be able to spot exposure in both containers as well as in Kubernetes, as both can be the source of vulnerabilities.

There is no such thing as a completely secure application, and good vulnerability management allows teams to not only see vulnerabilities but also additional information to help prioritize the organization-specific criticality of a given vulnerability. For example, even a high-priority CVE has a different risk profile depending on the sensitivity of the workload. Good vulnerability management is about being able to balance, evaluate, and prioritize fixes to establish the best possible security posture.

Vulnerability management should be primarily automated in cloud-native applications. Human intelligence is needed to define policies, but tooling should be responsible for finding policy violations and taking appropriate action based on the vulnerability, risk level and the part of the lifecycle, from automatically failing builds to blocking deployments or scaling them to zero in production.

Last updated: Jun-2-2020